What It's Like Leaving Google To Go Work At Facebook

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Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Google is considered one of the most fun places to work in the world and has some of the best perks.Facebook is the “new” kid on the block and is about to go public at a huge valuation.

Which has the better workplace?

David Braginsky, who worked at both companies, wrote a detailed explanation on Quora of the differences between working at Google and Facebook.

Some of the information might be a little dated, given his response was in late 2010. But it does jive with what we hear from people in the industry.

Google is like grad-school.

People value working on hard problems, and doing them right, Braginsky said.

Everything is pretty polished, the code is typically well written and the systems are designed for scale up in users from the start.

There are tons of experts review processes set up for systems designs.

Facebook is more like undergrad.

When something needs to get done, people do it.

Most of the time they won't research the subject or consult experts about the 'right way' to do it. They will just sit down, write code and make sure it works.

Google tends to value technology.

Google is built from the ground up to be run by engineers.

'Things are often done because they are technically hard or impressive,' Braginsky said. On most projects, the engineers make the calls.

Facebook values products and user experience, and designers tend to have a much larger impact.

Zuckerberg is a big advocate of product and spends a lot of his time look at product mock-ups.

He is involved pretty deeply with the site's look and feel.

Google is really big.

There are multiple teams doing the same thing and don't know about each other.

It's the difference between having tens of thousands of employees and a few thousand.

There are teams that strongly believe that other teams should not exist, Braginsky said.

There are giant sections of Google that have been described as 'non-Google' because of culture drift and acquisitions, he also said.

Facebook is much smaller, and while you won't know everyone (or even the majority), you will probably recognise 25% of the engineers.

There is sometimes duplication of work, but it is almost always intentional, Braginsky said.

While Facebook is hiring like crazy, it doesn't appear to be picking up the same big-company woes Google has just yet, he said.

Because of its size, Google can place big bets, and try ambitious world-changing things.

Google isn't going to work on a project that makes 'just' tens of millions of dollars.

Instead, it works on very ambitious projects, most of which will fail. The successes are typically huge, though.

'If being at the frontier of computer science is what you want, and you are good enough to convince the Google management structure to not place you into one of the many critical but not very interesting teams, Google might be the place for you,' Braginsky said.

Google has some amazing engineers, but there is also a noticeable number of people that should have never been hired

Google seems reluctant (or unable) to remedy that, Braginsky said.

The same is true for just about every large company -- some will make it through the weeding-out process and stick around in the company.

Even still, 'there are people at Google that have made the computer industry into what it is today,' he said. But it's unlikely that you will work with, or interact with those people.

Facebook engineers are typically younger, and many are less experienced.

Facebook is much more willing to fire people.

The median quality of engineers at Facebook is higher, but Google has some strong outliers, Braginsky said.

Because Google is so big, management plays a much bigger role.

There are many VPs, directors, non-technical managers and tech leads.

'Most managers are competent, and I have almost never heard engineers disliking their managers,' Braginsky said.

But there are turf wars, and ideological conflicts on many levels, he said.

All of Facebook's managers are technical, many have switched to the management track from engineering.

Things are not completely flat, but reasonably so.

Due to the size of Facebook, the hierarchy is much less important, since it's actually possible to develop relationships with people through out the company, Braginsky said.

At Google, it's often hard to feel like you have real impact.

Most employees will just make incremental changes to existing systems to improve stability, performance, or add minor features.

But when they do launch, hundreds of millions of users will feel the effect.

There were bugs, and emergency pushes to fix those bugs, but a few days later your code will be running in production.

Again, millions of people will benefit from it.

The base salaries at the two companies are pretty close, with Google offering a bit more.

Google also has an annual bonus targeted at 15 per cent, but with various multipliers.

Google will also pay for you to continue your education, and make it relatively easy to get a Masters from Stanford or CMU while you work at Google, Braginsky said.

Facebook's bonus target is 10%, but goes up non-linearly for high-performing engineers.

It's the difference between working at a startup and a large company.

Since Facebook is about to go public, you might be less likely to pick up stock options.

Facebook has subsidized laundry service...

Pretty straightforward.

... but in general, perks are better at Google.

Facebook's cafe is very good, but Google has and on any day you can find great food in most of them, Braginsky said.

Google has gyms, a dance studio, a steady stream of interesting speakers, ski trips, and mobile phone giveaways, he said.

Can't decide between the two?

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